Social media is one of the most complex and influential innovations of the 21st century. According to hootsuite.com, 45% of the total world population uses social media. Lessening the scope slightly, Hootsuite reports the average American has 7 social media accounts and 88% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 use social media. Although there are no hard numbers on how social media impacts book sales, it is an incredibly powerful tool for promotion and recognition. However, leveraging social media can be a daunting task. We’re here to break down the basics and help you take that first step in building your online brand.
You may be questioning my use of the word brand, but trust me it was not an error. Whether you like it or not, as an author you are a brand. If people like you, they’re more likely to be interested in your books. Conversely, if people like your books, you want them to like you as well, so they’ll keep buying your books. Book consumers rarely search for the latest book from Penguin Random House, but frequently shop for the newest book by Stephen King or Nora Roberts. As an author, it is your job not only to write books, but to establish a readership for your books.
One of the best ways to grow your readership is through social media. There are many different social media channels you can explore. Some of our underrated favorites here at Three Houses Press are Pinterst, Tumblr., Snapchat, and LinkedIn. However, for the purposes of this overview, we’re going to focus on the big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Yes, it’s home to a plethora of cat videos, political rants from your crazy uncle, and overly detailed posts from your mom and her friends. Yet despite it’s many faults, Facebook remains the epitome of a social network. As an author, Facebook is where you want to shamelessly plug your book. Utilize Facebook for all your big news moments: pub date, cover reveal, giveaways, reviews, excerpts, etc. Facebook is where you can humble-brag about yourself to your heart’s content, because there is no character count. Go wild! Write longer, post photos and videos, and include important links. Have a book trailer? Put it on Facebook.
There is a lot of noise on Facebook, so you will need to be strategic. This is where branding comes into play. Develop your writing style. Are you snarky? Bubbly? It doesn’t matter so long as your followers recognize your tone. And while Facebook is definitely the place to post all of your big promotions, make sure you’re posting more than just “buy my book.” Readers like a glimpse into an author’s process or pictures of your current read/what books you have on your shelves. It can be hard to find the right balance, but the best thing about Facebook is it’s really easy to figure things out with some practice.
Facebook is also a great place to build community not just with your readers, but your fellow writers. You can easily find peer groups and writing communities to connect with both online and in person on Facebook. Writing communities are an incredible way to foster growth and friendship among authors, so try to find and join a few on Facebook. You never know when those friendships may come in handy.
The most visual social media site, Instagram requires the largest investment of your time and creative energy. When starting a branded Instagram account, it’s best to begin with a theme. Whether it be a mix of cozy writer’s room and lifestyle shots or coffee shops and travel pics, you want to establish a routine that your followers will associate with your account. Make yourself interesting and recognizable, which is easier said than done.
As an author, you’ll want to balance posts about your life and writing process with promotional posts for your books. However, those promotional posts should look less like an ad and more like a glamour shot for your book. Try and find a way to make your posts aesthetically pleasing while evangelizing your book. Also, know which hashtags are most effective for your book. Are you a YA author? Know which YA hashtags are trending. The same goes for romance, fantasy, or any genre-specific title.
In addition to posts relevant to your writing career, you should also give readers a glimpse into your life. Readers can be fiercely loyal if they like your books and YOU. So share a little bit of yourself with them. You don’t need to post pictures of your kids or tell people what street you live on—share only what you’re comfortable sharing. If you’ve got a dog, post a picture. People love dogs! If you love Star Wars, let your fan flag fly. Just be sure to keep your style—lighting, color palette, and filters—consistent.
In my opinion, Twitter is the most important social media channel for authors. Unlike Facebook, which gives its users uninhibited space to write, Twitter limits its users 250 characters. Personally, I believe the challenge of condensing your thoughts to fit the character limit is a great exercise for writers. Twitter is an important sales and marketing tool for authors, but the best sales pitches are ones that are brief and pack a punch. As an author, it is your job to sell your books and yourself. One of the best ways you can do that is to figure out your Twitter pitch—similar to an elevator pitch, but trickier because you want to include any important links, images, or hashtags. Great assets to tweet include: a link to your books on retail sites, sales and promotions, and giveaways.
While Twitter is an excellent site for self-promotion, you want to ensure you have a mix of content. Retweet others frequently, especially other authors. Twitter is the best place to make connections with other authors. Twitter isn’t just about promoting yourself, it’s about evangelizing other authors. Writers are readers first, and as such, usually have great book recommendations. Share those on Twitter. Not only does it let your readers know what you’re reading, it generates goodwill within the writing community at large.
When your next book comes out, you’re going to need blurbs. The relationships you foster on Twitter can pay off in the long run, because when your editor wants to know who they can ask for blurbs, you can give them the names of people you’ve supported in the past. Lastly, as we all know, Twitter can be an excellent news source. Be a savvy entrepreneur and stay up-to-date with publishing industry news, tastemakers, and trends so you know how best to position yourself in the marketplace.
The best advice I can give you about social media is to just get started. Create your profile and have at it. There will be some bumps along the way and it will take time to gain a following, but developing a social media presence is a vital resource for authors in today’s market. With the right amount of effort, you will find your voice and your community. In the words of Yoda, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”